What It's Like To Ride Along In A Volkswagen GTI TCR Race Car
We’ve all imagined the pure, unadulterated feeling of speed as we watch a race car zip past us, whether it be on television or in person. We're positive we know what that must feel like and how much fun it is, until we experience it for ourselves. Because nothing can prepare you for the real thing. Nothing.
All photos credit: Kyle Norton
While Nate Vincent drove his FCP Euro Volkswagen GTI TCR through West Bend at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, CT, I was living in the moment in a way that I rarely do inside of a car. Driving around town, you kind of go through the motions, but in a race car, it's different.
A race car is a metal box where you focus in a way you wish you could focus at other times. The worries are forgotten. The chores and errands are non-existent. The little voice in your head that never seems to shut up is silent.
But more importantly, inside the race car, time seems to slow down while you're speeding up. Trees fly by faster and faster outside the window, yet there's more and more time to see that corner coming up and glance at the instruments. The engine roar and tire screech is louder than anything, yet you can hear the gears change in a way you’ve never heard them before—with all of the plush upholstery and sound deadening material stripped from the interior.
When the seatbelts are tightened, you can't even move enough to close the door as the brakes threaten to send you through the front window, and yet you feel free. You’re at one with the machine, and this is something I've never ever felt in a car before.
When the ride is over, it was time for a break. No eating after you melt out of the passenger door, legs wobbly and hands shaking. You feel euphoric, swearing to "never do that again" while simultaneously looking for the next free car and driver for another lap at speed.
I’ve since settled down and had time to think about the whole experience, which taught me more than I expected from a few minutes of going very fast in a circle. I've known for a while that the racing side of the automotive industry was important for the innovation side in many areas, including performance and safety. At some point during the ride, that nugget of information took on a very personal ah ha! moment as I realized how much I trusted that car when Nate skillfully applied the brakes into big bend.
I won’t be putting my VW Jetta TDI around the bends of Lime Rock Park, but there will certainly be an accident to avoid. And if I take care of the maintenance, I will be able to trust her performance and breathe a sigh of thanks when I inevitably need to brake hard.
Maintenance isn’t just another chore, it’s a big part of why I owe a very big thank you to FCP Euro. They so vividly illustrated the importance of balancing fun with serious car care because the fun, including the ride in a race car, is so much fun!